In recent years, a revolution in the way people communicate has been witnessed in almost every imaginable walk of life. Thanks to the proliferation of tools available to help us communicate and collaborate, a whole host of different industries have been transformed. You can now sit in a virtual waiting room while you wait to video chat with a healthcare professional, attend a virtual conference, or take part in a remote interview with a company based thousands of miles away.
Whether you’re starting a new remote job, or your existing employer is transitioning to more of a remote work model, there are certain things you can do to improve your life and the lives of your colleagues in the new employment paradigm.
Follow this seven-step guide to ensure you’re properly adapting your professional etiquette for the virtual workplace.
1. Be a team player
When many remote workers are physically isolated, it can be too easy for people to forget that they’re part of a team. Without the physical presence of your colleagues to remind you when you are, it can be tempting to go it alone when you should be running ideas past your team and collaborating on projects.
Worse still, some businesses are finding that having a mix of in-location and remote employees is causing rifts between the different staff cohorts. This is the exact reason that hybrid teams are choosing collaborative workplaces that bridge the gap between in-office and home workers
To overcome the challenges of remote teamwork, use your team communication tools to keep in touch with colleagues. Even if you’re working on a solo project, touching base with your team from time to time will help them to stay up-to-date with what you’re working on, and help you to see the bigger picture of where your work fits within wider business goals.
2. Use the right communication channel for the circumstance
With the range of new communication tools and work-from-home platforms that have been popularized in recent years, there are probably those who long for simpler times, when colleagues that needed to connect only had to choose between email and a phone call.
Ultimately, having the choice between a wide variety of communication channels needn’t be a headache if you know when to use each one.
Text-based media like instant messaging and SMS are fine for chit-chat and checking in with your team, but for anything more in-depth, it’s best to opt for a phone call, or even better, a video meeting.
3. Mute your microphone in busy meetings
If you’ve ever spent much time in video meetings, especially those with more than three participants, it’s likely that you’ve discovered how annoying it is when someone’s microphone picks up on a dog barking or door slamming. When this happens, those background noises get broadcast to the whole meeting, often resulting in them drowning out whoever is talking.
Whether it’s a video meeting or audio-only conference call, when you’re not talking, muting your microphone during busy meetings is now recognized as essential remote work etiquette in order to avoid distracting other participants with background noise.
4. Apply the same professionalism to virtual meetings as you would to in-person ones
For some reason, many people seem to think that the standards of professionalism that govern what’s considered acceptable behavior for a meeting don’t apply when you’re not in the same room.
Of course, depending on the nature of your business, who’s in the meeting, and whether or not you know all of the participants, different virtual meetings will demand different levels of professionalism.
Ultimately, this is as true of video meetings as it is when you meet people physically. Snacking on a croissant during the start-of-day huddle with your immediate team may be par for the course at many businesses, but when you’re pitching to a new client and want to make a good impression, it’s probably best if you finish your breakfast first.
5. Remember that you represent your company while working
In addition to ensuring that virtual meetings are not treated too casually, you should keep in mind the ideal job skills that you will require, which is maintaining a professional appearance in other aspects of your remote job.
For example, if you have a clearly defined position in the customer lifecycle, be it as a sales rep, customer support agent, or some other customer-facing role, keep in mind that even though you may not be in close physical proximity to customers, you still represent your company and should apply customer interaction best practices.
If you choose to make use of a shared workspace, keep in mind that these are public spaces and should be treated as such. That means you need to avoid disturbing the other people there. If they have dedicated areas for taking and making calls, use them.
6. Respect people’s working hours
For some people, remote work and flexible hours go hand-in-hand. For many people who prefer to work in their own time, without the requirement to be in the office between nine and five every day, there’s no need for set work hours at all.
But just because some of us prefer longer, or less conventional hours, doesn’t mean we all do.
As people’s work days have become more flexible, the concept of virtual office hours has become increasingly important. The idea is to let it be known when you are available to be contacted and that people shouldn’t expect to get an immediate response outside of these hours.
If your colleagues have let you know that they have specific working hours, respect these and don’t bother them at other times, even if you’re working yourself.
7. Respect people’s privacy
While many people who work remotely have embraced shared office and coworking spaces (like those provided by pacific workplaces), and others have the ability to work in a designated office space at home,, not everyone has such opportunities.
One side-effect of this is that if you have a colleague who works from their living room, for example, you may unintentionally catch a glimpse into their home life that they would rather you hadn’t. If this happens, play it tactfully and try not to embarrass them.
Likewise, unless you’re close to the colleague in question, it’s generally bad form to ask for a tour of people’s houses, or to speak to their family members and cohabitants.
As the world of work adapts to accommodate a range of remote and hybrid employment models, the standards of professionalism and employment etiquette are inevitably evolving too. Follow the seven tips outlined here to ensure you’re prepared to be the best colleague and employee you can be in the new virtual workplace.
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Guest Author Bio: Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace has also written for great sites such as Codemotion and EasyAffiliate. Here is her LinkedIn.